Newmarket Handicap hero gives Notnowcato first top-level winner
Knockhouse Stud resident also due to be represented at Cheltenham
Those that expected to see Notnowcato land a major prize in the month of March could be forgiven for picturing one of his sons or daughters bounding up the Cheltenham hill to festival glory. But what transpired in Australia on Saturday was an altogether more unlikely turn of events, with Redkirk Warrior supplying his sire with a first top-level winner after scorching the sun-kissed Flemington turf in the 6f Newmarket Handicap.
Redkirk Warrior was among the outsiders of the 13-runner field for the Group 1 event that has been won in previous years by the likes of Black Caviar and Brazen Beau, but having always been prominent under 19-year-old jockey Regan Bayliss, he nosed into the lead over a furlong from home and showed his rivals a clear pair of heels to draw two lengths clear of runner-up Voodoo Lad.
Having won the Juddmonte International, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Coral-Eclipse, Notnowcato retired to Stanley House Stud in Newmarket in 2008, from where he sired the likes of three-time Group 2 winner Custom Cut and classy handicapper Chil The Kite.
Despite the glittering race record and having sired some talented Flat performers, Notnowcato was relocated to Sean Kinsella’s Knockhouse Stud in County Kilkenny in 2014. Through the exploits of the likes of Old Guard and Long Dog he has since earned a reputation as an emerging force in the jumping world, a career trajectory quite at odds with Redkirk Warrior's stylish success.
What's more, the successful sire is not the only unusual element to this tale.
Despite beating the cream of the Australian sprinting crop on their own patch, the six-year-old gelding’s story began in the sleepy setting of rural North Yorkshire at breeder Lenore Peacock’s Manor House Stud in Middleham.
Although the distance may have taken some by surprise, Redkirk Warrior's talent does not come from completely out of the blue. He is out of the unraced Selkirk mare Flag, who has produced seven winners from seven runners and who counts Bold Arrangement - the 1986 Kentucky Derby runner-up - among her relatives. While Manor House Stud has also produced the likes of 1990 2,000 Guineas winner Tirol.
Redkirk Warrior was first sold to Jill Lamb for 22,000gns at the 2012 renewal of Book 2 of Tattersalls’ October Yearling Sale. He very quickly looked a shrewd buy as he went on to win both of his starts for William Haggas at three, bolting up in a Yarmouth maiden before defeating subsequent Geoffrey Freer Stakes winner and Irish St Leger runner-up Agent Murphy in an Ascot handicap.
Both of those victories were gained over a mile and a quarter, but, despite his sire’s influence for stamina, Redkirk Warrior has continued to improve each time he has dropped in trip.
He left Haggas’s yard after the 2014 season to continue his racing career in Hong Kong under the care of Chris So Wai-Yin - where he was the one-time Hong Kong Derby favourite - before transferring to the Lindsay Park Racing stables of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig late in 2016, for whom he also won the 7f Group 3 Yarramalong Racing Club Stakes in November last year.
For all that breaking from his pedigree has paid rich dividends for Redkirk Warrior, trainer David Hayes is not ruling out tapping into the stamina in his family in the future, and even suggested a crack at Antipodean wondermare Winx could be in the offing.
"The owner told me when he gave him to me that: 'if you get this horse's feet right he'll race Winx' and I thought he was dreaming," Hayes told local media. "That was the sort of performance that he might be able to be entered against her anyway."